ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




Extradition Order  ‘American Prometheus’
(Blang/Gare du Nord/HLP19/I Blame/Jezus Factory) 20th February 2020


Willed on by a whole quintet of label facilitators, the first album in a good few years from the excitable and soulful no wave Warrington troupe Extradition Order is a poignant return to the American history books. Dedicated in part to founding member Nick Boardman who passed away in 2018 (his legacy permeates this album, whether as a guiding influence or through his bass hooks and singing), the Order’s vessel this time around is “the destroyer of worlds” polyglot genius behind the fateful A-bomb Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer. Taking the album’s title from the Oppenheimer biography of the same name, American Prometheus is a guide to a visceral concept of the lamentable, profane and hysterical. Just as the band did with their both pining and erratic opus to the Kennedy dynasty on the 2015 Kennedy LP, the extended cast of unfortunate and listless wives, lovers, set adrift family members, rivals and enablers are given a voice in the linear story of this incredible scientist; one who, as it turns out, had quite the checkered and controversial life story.

From the very outset, a gilded pathway was laid out for the privileged N.Y. city born physicist, as succinctly raved-up on the opening meeting of post-punk and northern soul ‘Daddy, Give Me Your Money’: A rattle and roll party-ish rambunctious union of James White, Dexys and the B52s. Money and connections aside, you still need that beautiful mind and Oppenheimer had the genius gene in spades. Obviously, and for good reason his CV is overshadowed for his integral part in putting together the apocalyptic atom bomb – two of which, the Fat Boy and Fat Man, were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945; covered by the Order on the raucous with theatrical bent ‘Fat Man, Thin Man’ -, but beyond that he was also instrumental in developing theories on black holes and quantum field theory. Oppenheimer would go on to denounce the bomb he helped create, suffering recriminations throughout the remainder of his career for speaking out. It also didn’t help that in the paranoid age of McCarthyism that, though never openly a supporter, he donated to many left wing causes. He also seemed to be orbiting those circles and even had affairs with two paid-up members of the cause. Famously, Oppenheimer would not only lose his security clearance but be snubbed, three times, for a Noble Prize (1945, ’51 and ’67). A link back to Extradition Order’s previous interest, JFK would, before fate cruelly took its cause, offer him a lifetime achievement award as a sort of conciliatory gesture of recognition.

 

American Prometheus presents the portrait of a fallen figure, an emotionally charged evisceration of a complicated man. Of course there’s many parallels to be drawn with the here and now. Songs such as the hooting ‘America First’ – Funboy Three lose the plot with early Adam And The Ants and Richard Hell – and brassy soul number ‘Manhattan’ both resonate with current themes of bullish political isolationism and sexism; the first, a reference to the isolated sloganism of that original movement of American Nationalism (which in its 1930s appeasement of Hitler and aggrandizement of such anti-Semitic national heroes as Charles Lindbergh, attempted to stand alone outside the international community), the second, the plaintive tale of the highly educated, articulate and “sexual” Kitty Puering, stifled and limited, stuck mothering two children on the Los Alamos military base in New Mexico after marrying Oppenheimer (another sorry tale in itself, Kitty originally started an affair with the scientist whilst already married; pregnant with Oppenheimer’s child, she would divorce her husband and remarry in quick time).

With colliery soul requiems, prowling hints of Blurt, cheerleader Grease rah-rah and bursts of My Life Story, The Pop Group, Style Council and The Mekons, Extradition Order blow open the myths and dramas behind the conflicted Oppenheimer: warts and all. American Prometheus is another mini triumph from a band that manages to bridge the fury and wrath of punk with the contorting squawks and funk of no wave and the brassy heralded romantic yearns of northern soul: good going guys. Expect to see this one in our albums of 2020.



Reviews
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted at the end of 2019 through Metal Postcard Records with the paean to local record shop single, ‘Dormouse Records’. They’ve also released their seasonal dirge, ‘Christmas Morn‘.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.


bigflower   ‘Sound Of Silence’
Single/1st January 2020

How apt that my first review of the year is a cover of the Simon And Garfunkel classic ‘The Sound Of Silence’; a song associated with the mid sixties when the world was full of hope and revolution of peace and love; a beautifully written and recorded folk rock classic. This version by the brilliant bigflower is quite the opposite. This is a dark piece of nihilism a psychotic and slightly psychedelic sleazy lounge lizard rendition, a version that soundtracks the lack of hope we have for the future new decade as we exist under the cloud of hate poverty and despair.

As ever, this shows the world just what it is not getting to hear as it’s force fed smart phone pop (or should that be pap on radio and TV). In these times of unease we should be hearing the call of revolution of high art; we should be letting the kids enjoy the feeling and exhilaration their parents and grandparents felt when they turned on the radio. There are bands artists out there who are just as capable and talented as the bands of yore. Just that they are not being given the chance to shine. Come the revolution – and believe me it is only a matter of time – bigflower will be leading the way.




Pintandwefall  ‘Your Stories Baby’
(Soliti Music) LP/17th January 2020

 

Ah rock n roll I gave you the best years of my wife. The not so subtle sounds of garage punk and well-written pop, of which I have grown very fond of in my 53 years on this planet. This is a little gem of an album; nothing outstandingly different to many other indie garage punk pop albums, but this has enough quirkiness and more importantly it has a soul and immaturity that many other bands can only wish for. A band that has been touched by the hand of pop suss; a band that sounds like it has been force fed 60s girl group records followed by post punk hits for their afters: twangy guitars, one fingered keyboard riffs, “na na na” choruses and synths that whiiirrl. Perfect imperfect pop: and what is more perfect than that.




Sunflowers  ‘Endless Voyage’
(Stolen Body Records) LP/14th February 2020

 

This is a concept LP I’m led to believe, and on the whole I’m not a great fan of them as they normally play out as a way to release an album with shit lyrics, and try and con the listener that it’s more important than it actually is. Normally it is a cabbage like thing dressed up as full salad with relish and everything. It’s a sign of a band that is getting bored with itself and is running out of ideas and have forgotten how to write good songs, but not in this case. On the whole Endless Voyage is a very enjoyable album with screeching guitars, twonking synths, and is mostly instrumental: hence the lack of shit lyrics. The instrumentals are the better tracks on the LP; the tracks with vocals are the least interesting – reminding me of Blur when they where going through their American art rock phase but without Blur’s pop suss. If the Sunflowers had made it a wholly instrumental album I feel it could have been something pretty special instead of the just pretty good album we have here.




Shadow Show  ‘Silhouettes’
(Stolen Body Records) LP/14th February 2020

 

Any LP that kicks off with a wonderful blast of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ riffery (‘Charades’) is fine with me. Sparkling sixties jangle tangle with melodies not heard since the last band decided that The Beatles are not such a bad thing, and if you are going to be influenced by anyone why not the greatest band ever.

Silhouettes as I have already mentioned in a few reviews of other new releases already this year, isn’t the most original of albums but it is a damn fine listen, filled as it is with great catchy guitar pop tunes. And Shadow Show is better than most at plundering the wonderful musical sounds the decade of the 60s produced. When it comes to the end if 2020 I wouldn’t be surprised to find this LP being one of my most played and loved of the year.




Bruce Hendrickson and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies  ‘Any Sunny Day’
Single/24th December 2019

 

‘Any Sunny Day’ is poetic stroll of Sparklehorse like beauty, softly strummed guitars and eerie synths that takes you on a journey to the psych of a perfect day; a soundtrack to a long lost black and white photo of happier times. The b-side or second track if you like, ‘Roll End Credits’, is what the Velvet Underground might of sounded like if they were obsessed by Hank and his Shadows and produced by the great Joe Meek. Please tell me that there is going to be a album, as this is magical.




Stovepipe  ‘Born to Jive/Never Surrender’
(Jezus Factory) Single/21st February 2020

 

Is Garage Rock the new garage rock? Is it making a bit of a comeback or has it never gone away, as I’m certainly being sent loads of it to review. This single/EP is a five track (three of which are bonus tracks) treat for lovers of loud guitars and garage rock organ sounds. Once again nothing ground breaking but it is garage rock. It’s what it says on the tin or the label in this case, and lovers of 60s tinged frenzy and pre-punk pub rock – even occasionally slipping into post punk psych as on ‘I Wanna Be Your Favourite Pair Of Pajamas’ – will no doubt enjoy it and will want in their record collection.




Floodlights  ‘Backyard’
(Spunk Records) EP/21st February 2020

 

What I like about this EP is how Australian it sounds – a bit like the Hoodoo Gurus meet the Triffids -; four songs that recall traveling across the wilds of Australia. Not that I’ve ever been there, but I imagine Backyard would make a wonderful soundtrack if I were ever lucky enough to. It also reminds me of early 80s Kinks around their time of the ‘Come Dancing’ hit, which again can only be a good thing as Ray Davies is certainly no slouch at the old song writing lark. So all in all a very impressive EP.


NEW MUSIC DISCOVERY
Words: Monica Mazzoli





Continuing in 2020 with our collaboration with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz, the Monolith Cocktail will be cosying up and sharing reviews, interviews and other bits from our respective sites each month. Keep an eye out for future ‘synergy’ between our two great houses as we exchange posts.

The first Kalporz post of the year is taken from the site’s [Scoutcloud] column; searching out and discovering new bands.

Here’s a little reminder of the Kalporz background:

Kalporz writes about music, with his own musical vision, since 2000.

Kalporz is a careful observer of news, trends, emerging scenes, but without chasing the dominant taste: he is in search of “beautiful things”. He hopes to publish articles well written and carefully, in an original way, without filters and, of course, independently.

The editorial project is under the Creative Commons regime (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 IT) and in 2018 it was voted as the best Italian music site by the Meeting of Independent Labels (MEI) and Musicletter (https://www.musicletter.it/index.php/2018/08/27/kalporz-e-reverendo-lys-vincono-la-targa-mei-musicletter-2018-premio-speciale-a-umbria-jazz-come-miglior-festival-musicale-italiano/).

The Kalporz family is composed of the founder Luca Vecchi, the editors Paolo Bardelli,Monica MazzoliPiero MerolaEnrico StradiMatteo MannocciGianluigi Marsibilio, and about twenty other collaborators, as well as three photographers.

The collaborators are from all parts of Italy, even if the main base of Kalporz is between Reggio Emilia, a town near the “famous” Canossa, the Adriatic Sea and Florence.





Brainstory music has rhythm and heart. In a word: a groove.

Kevin Martin, Tony Martin and Eric Hagstrom – the three souls of the band – form a trio all soul, jazz and psychedelic. After two mini albums – Brainstory Presents: A Natural Phantasm (2015) and Brainstory (2017) – comes the band from Rialto’s (California) longplayer debut. Buck (2019), the band’s first release by Big Crown Records, the Californian line-up lays bare as never before, putting down its musical spirituality, naked and pure. “Buck naked”, on the other hand, means “naked as a worm” in English. The songs of Buck are all stripped of artificial frills; they are “pop”, directed to the point, to the soul of the melody and rhythm: Soul in spirit.


Monica Mazzoli

PLAYLIST
Compiled by Dominic Valvona





Cool shit that the Monolith Cocktail founder and instigator Dominic Valvona has pulled together, the Social playlist is a theme-less selection of eclectic tracks from across the globe and ages. Representing not only his tastes but the blogs, these regular playlists can be viewed as an imaginary radio show, a taste of Dominic’s DJ sets over 25 plus years. Placed in a way as to ape a listening journey, though feel free to listen to it as you wish, each playlist bridges a myriad of musical treasures to enjoy and also explore – and of course, to dance away the hours to.

The first volume of 2020 includes a couple of live ones from the cosmic, country rock doyen Mike Nesmith (taken from his performance with foil Red Rhodes; released as the The McCabe’s Tapes last year, slipping below the radar and just missing our albums of 2020 features), and from that ever exhaustive archive of lost and under wraps David Bowie material, a brassy resonating eastern and ethereal alternative take of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’.  There’s also Thai go-go beat nonsense from the Erawan Band; Afrobeat Salsa from Gyedu-Blay Ambolly; rattling garage punk from The Pandoras; 80s nu-soul funk from Konk; House(ing) diva funk collaboration from Kym Mazelle & Robert Howard; a rock steady grooving transformation of a classic from guitar picking Ernest Ranglin; plus the usual unusual mix of jazz, no wave, punk, post punk, power pop, country, avant-garde and whatever else tickles my fancy.


Track List

Erawan Band  ‘Khon Muangkhan’
Episode Six  ‘Morning Dew’
Eula Cooper  ‘Try’
Paolo Ferrara  ‘Afrotheme’
Bronx River Parkway  ‘Song For Ray’
Gyedu-Blay Ambolly  ‘Simigwa-Do’
Rikki Illonga, Musi-O-Tunya  ‘Sunshine Love’
Konk  ‘Love Attack’
Kym Mazelle & Robert Howard  ‘Wait’
Ernest Ranglin  ‘Summertime (Rock Steady)’
Eugene McDaniels  ‘Tell Me Mr. President’
Josefus  ‘America’
The Carpettes  ‘Radio Wunderbar’
The Pandoras  ‘You Burn Me Up And Down’
Total Control  ‘Future Creme’
Rosa Yemen  ‘Decryptated’
La Floripondio  ‘Dime Que Pasa’
Nat Birchall  ‘Ism Schism’
Ted Daniel Quintet  ‘Mozambique’
The Lyman Woodard Organization  ‘On Your Mind’
Engineers  ‘Forgiveness’
Wall Of Voodoo  ‘Dark As The Dungeon’
The Shivvers  ‘When I Was Younger’
The Velvet Illusions  ‘Town Of Fools’
David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights  ‘Smoke You Right Out Of Here’
Walter Ghoul’s Lavender Brigade  ‘House Of Small’
Emit Rhodes  ‘Mary Will You Take My Hand’
Michael Nesmith & Red Rhodes  ‘Grand Ennui (Live)’
Michael Nesmith & Red Rhodes  ‘Some Of Shelly’s Blues (Live)’
David Bowie  ‘The Man Who Sold The World (ChangesNowBowie Version)’

REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona




The Van Allen Belt  ‘Let It Goddam Be’
LP/23rd December 2019

To say that there’s been a one hell of a shitstorm of discourse and divisive upset in the period between this and the last LP from the musically omnivorous devouring Pittsburg collective The Van Allen Belt, would be an understatement. In that near five-year period of absence (release wise anyway) the trip-hoping psychedelic cinematic fantasists have a new president elect to wrestle with as they gaze out across a broken, hostile landscape of nationalism and wokeism. Saving up an incandescent rage and vitriol, the Van Allen’s unload the angst and anxious plaint on their first longplayer release since the beatific meandrous 2015 album, Heaven On A Branch (which rightly made our choice albums of that year).

With a Western style bent and playful pun-intended embrace, Let It Goddam Be raids the record collection of influences to build a sophisticated collage of dramatic and filmic soundtrack protestation. Stopping short of pastiche or aping those influences, chief instigator Benjamin Ferris and his vocal foil Tamar Kamin bend and shape familiar genres and sounds to their will. They even rope in the cult jazz and progressive experimentalist Bruno Spoerri (so cult that even those crate-digger cult worshippers of the obscure, Finders Keepers, even released a compilation of his maverick musings) to play on a homage to his own visionary entrancing renderings (albeit via the brooding visage of Eno & Bowie and the suffused wafting saxophone caresses of The Cosmic Range); the vaporous instrumental passage ‘Christine Versions’. Spoerri also partakes on the opening Western themed ‘Peace Don’t Stand A Chance’ epic; a Link Wray embossed mosey that wrangles a loose lasso around Morricone, Unloved and The Plastic Ono Band. A meta transformation of the Sergio Leone template, amped up on a tripsy embittered protest march, this opening throw-down (literally with foley sound effects) strikes a match off a tough leathery cowboy boot and sets in motion a flaming pyre of grievances. On an album of guest spots, it even features a Deadwood Swearingen (Cheyenne) on violin alongside the Lynchian inspired guitarist Kirk Salopek on tremolo wane duties.

The next mini-opus, ‘Lucky After Dark’, takes a signature Supremes tambourine rattling backbeat on a detour through the dreamy Gothic and Acid Jazz (Morcheeba in the subterranean), and the even grander title-track churns Moloko, Sparks and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah into a kooky riling symphony. Regular Van Allen extended cast member Tom Altes is back on bass for the ditsy ‘You’ve Heard It All Before’; a track that manages to both evoke Billie Holiday and The Sneaker Pimps simultaneously. But rounding the wagon circle is the closing Western cinematic ‘143’; a Biblical film score gone astray and transmogrified by DJ Shadow and the 5th Dimension.

Assured quality, with Tamar’s idiosyncratic vocal fluctuations (from deeper earthy tones to aria and untethered swirls) as engaging and free-floating as ever, the production multilayered and ever more sophisticated, The Van Allen Belt’s short, but certainly not scrimping on depth, new album finishes all too soon. It’s great to have them back. The musical landscape looks a lot brighter and better in 2020 with them back on board making complex, cerebral pop musical statements.

Dominic Valvona



REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona
Images: Luis Mileo



Lina_Raül Refree ‘S/T’
(Glitterbeat Records) LP/17th January 2020

Stripped bare and rebuilt from the foundations up, the congruous and accentuate sonic and voice union of the striking siren simply known as Lina and Raül Refree subtly revive the often sullen and forlorn Portuguese tradition of ‘fado’. Working together for the first time, this collaborative partnership transforms a classic songbook of material made famous by the queen of fado, Amália Rodrigues, whilst keeping an essence of that folkloric style’s veneration and plaintive pull.

Continuing with a fresh formula that in the last few years has worked wonders for his collaborations with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and the “incendiary” flamenco artist Rosalia, and created an experimental sonic mirage out of the on and off set atmosphere of Isaki Lacuesta’s flamenco exploration ‘Entre dos Agua’, Refree transports that tradition beyond its origins into an abstract soundscape that could evoke French Chanson as much as the Kosmische, and even the soundtrack work of Angelo Badalamenti. Not so much a sacrilege as a move away from past constrictions the multi talented musician/producer puts a contemporary spin on the indigenous musical form by removing the synonymous acoustic guitar accompaniment for a nuanced atmosphere of augmented, reverent and ambient analogue synthesizer and neoclassical piano.

Enervated circular metallic, vaporous mists and centrifugal forces envelope, caress or appear like distant murmurings, layered beneath Lina’s diaphanous and starkly sonorous vocals; taking the determined and soulful kernel of fado into some gauze-y, ominous and alien dimensions. Channeling the spirit of chanteuse and actress Amália Rodrigues – who did more than anyone to spread fado beyond the borders of Portugal – Lina’s adroit refashioning of the late performer’s repertoire plays centre stage on this experimentally minimalist LP.





A scion of fado, Lina inherited an interest in the style at the age of fifthteen. Broadening horizons, the burgeoning enchantress also studied opera; the barest, although highly impressive, opening up of those scales can be heard at key punctuated moments throughout. Building a reputation for her haunted interpretations and range, Lina has performed as a regular at the venerated Clube de Fado in Lisbon. Venturing into new uncharted soundscapes, Lina invited Refree in to apply a more liberal contemporary, even mysterious, production.

The dynamics of these two artists works in part because of Refree’s lack of investment or adherence to fado’s signatures and history. Relatively unburdened by its weighty worthiness, though no less respectful, these classical lamentable yearns and ballads open out into magical realism, the dreamy and the esoteric. On the echoed ‘Sta Luzia’ Lina sounds like a Portuguese transmogrification of Marianne Faithfull singing the ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, and on the rising torrid haunted sea omen ‘Gaivota’ you can hear touches of Diamanda Galas.

The beauty of morose and tragedy is explored with a synthesized and reconstructive intimacy that loses none of fado’s naturalistic and guttural heartbroken fragility. Refree’s production proves complimentary if subtly transformative; underpinning and accentuating the power and stark brilliance of Lina’s stirring performances without infringing upon the sensitivity or meaning.

Bellowed, ghostly, sensual, soothed and melodic: this album is all of these. Yet it is also sparse and stripped, almost to just the faintest of renderings with Refree’s presence at times almost recorded from beyond the ether. Fado’s legacy is in good hands as it lingers on into a new decade with a contemporary purpose.

Dominic Valvona





 

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